By Carlo Vuolo, Cirencester Scene Magazine

Following the resounding successes of the first two productions at The Barn Theatre, the brilliant musical ‘The Secret Garden’ and the stark realism of ‘One Minute’, the last show of the current season is an uplifting and engaging tragi-comedy. ‘The Rise and Fall of Little Voice’ by Jim Cartwright, which has been named one of the 50 best plays in the history of theatre, opened on July 7th.  

Sarah Louise Hughes as Little Voice
It is the tale of a shy, reclusive northern girl, nicknamed Little Voice (LV), living with Mari, her domineering, alcoholic mother. LV’s only comfort is listening to her late father’s collection of old vinyl records, from which she learns to impersonate famous singers, including Shirley Bassey, Edith Piaf and Marylin Monroe.

Sarah Louise Hughes, making her professional debut, excelled as the title character, Little Voice, and blew the audience away with the sheer power of her ‘Massive Voice’ after she has been persuaded – or rather coerced, into performing at the local nightclub. We really thought we were listening to the great stars themselves as she finally opened up and released all her inner tensions and frustrations, albeit temporarily. Mari’s long-suffering neighbour, Sadie, mercilessly teased and ‘fat-shamed’ by Mari, was played with appropriate resigned pathos by Larissa Hunter.

Failed talent scout, the scheming Ray Say, is played menacingly by Gary Richards as the latest in a long line of Mari’s useless boyfriends. He hears LV sing and sees her as his big chance of fame and fortune. Her mother, mistakenly thinking her daughter’s success would secure her own relationship with Ray, persuades her to comply against her will when he ruthlessly coerces Little Voice into singing at his friend Mr Boo’s seedy nightclub. It ends badly for all.

There was some welcome light relief with the sweet, gentle friendship LV struck up with the equally shy Billy (Hadley Brown), an apprentice telephone engineer with his own hidden talent, as well as the entertaining comedic interaction between the telephone fitter (Stephen Omer) and Mari.

Gillian Cafferty as Mari and Sarah Louise Hughes as Little Voice

The glue which held the whole story together was, however, undoubtedly the superb performance of Gillian McCafferty as Mari. Her performance was brilliant, and her comic timing accurate to the nanosecond. She even kept in character during the interval, drinking ‘vodka and Malibu’ in the theatre bar with Sadie and bantering with the audience as they passed by.

With the cleverly designed set, The Barn Theatre backstage team used their technological wizardry to recreate a convincing representation of Northern back-to-back gloom and deprivation.

This production is guaranteed to raise laughs and lift your spirits. It is a delight from start to finish and is another ‘must see’ offering from the Barn Theatre team. Cirencester is so, so lucky to have this wonderful facility. 

The rise and fall of Little Voice runs until August 4th.   
Tickets can be booked on or 01285 648255.

Please be aware that mature language, smoking and adult themes are used throughout the show.

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